So by now you’ve head the news… Barack Obama has picked Joe Biden to join the ticket as the vice-presidential nominee. It’s a good pick, especially considering some of the alternatives that have been floated. I can see some negatives against him, like his initial support for the war in Iraq and his sponsorship of the awful Bankruptcy Bill of 2005. But he is a senator from Delaware, the credit card company capital of the world, and his fellow senator Jack Reed wasn’t great on the bankruptcy bill either, despite an otherwise progressive voting record. Not exactly a profile in courage, but he’s not the only progressive to carry water for the home state industry (like Obama, Schweitzer, and Tester with coal or Dodd with insurance.)
And Biden’s initial support of the war turned to vocal criticism as the results of the invasion became apparent. It’s also worth noting that he authored the Biden-Lugar Amendment, which, if passed, would have kept the US from invading Iraq until after inspections were completed.
There are some big pluses with Biden, too. He has working-class roots, born in Scranton, PA in a working-class family. He has the lowest net worth of any US Senator, even though he’s one of the longest serving senators. And his Progressive Punch score ranks Biden as just behind Ted Kennedy and just above Hillary Clinton. He also authored the Clinton Crime Bill of the early 1990s which helped bring crime down and take crime off the table as an issue for Republicans. And Biden authored the Violence Against Women Act, which was a big step in helping battered women to bring their tormentors to justice.
One of the biggest pluses for picking Biden is that he is an aggressive and effective campaigner. He’s good with a quip (who can forget his “Noun, Verb, and 9/11” takedown of Giuliani) and he’s extremely good at connecting personally with voters. When I canvassed for John Edwards in Iowa, the talk among staffers was sheer terror that Biden would campaign there, because reports coming in from around the state was that Biden was the best natural speaker anyone had ever seen. Unfortunately for Biden, he didn’t have enough money or staff for the campaign to get off the ground. But now he’s got Obama’s money and a crack staff to get that message across to voters. As long as he stays on message (which he did in the primary after early stumbles), Biden will be fantastic for the campaign as a nominee.
UPDATE: There’s a craptacular AP “analysis” from Ron Fournier on why this is a terrible pick for Obama. Don’t buy it. After all, this is the guy who almost joined the nascent McCain campaign in 2006 and exchanged chummy e-mails with Karl Rove, encouraging him to “keep up the fight” in Bush’s re-election campaign.
UPDATE II: The DMI report on Joe Biden’s recent record on domestic issues gives him a very progressive score.